Getting In Harm's Way For A Story
One of the saddest parts of Tom Glocer's job is having to put out announcements about Reuters personnel killed in combat. Since 2000, Reuters has had five employees killed in conflicts, including two in Iraq. Glocer is awed by the risks Reuters journalists take. "I'd be scared s---less," he says about working in Baghdad.
The two Reuters employees who died in Iraq were killed by U.S. forces, and Glocer wants to know why. He has written U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanding a "full, comprehensive, and detailed" investigation into the death of TV cameraman Mazen Dana outside Baghdad on Aug. 17, 2003. Dana was killed by a rifleman who may have thought his camera was a rocket launcher. Glocer also wants to work with the Pentagon on making future wars safer for journalists operating independently of the military. "I am patriotic enough to believe that the U.S. has nothing to fear from independent and fair journalism, even if sometimes that will capture events that military leaders would prefer not to have come out," he says.
Glocer has suggested measures to identify reporters, such as radio transmitters sewn into their clothing. In fact, Reuters' clashes with U.S. troops continue. On Jan. 2, three Iraqis working for the news agency were picked up by U.S. soldiers near Falluja, detained for three days, and beaten, says Reuters. According to the military, troops guarding a helicopter crash site came under fire from people dressed as journalists. Reuters says its own probe showed no evidence of such behavior. The Pentagon says it is still investigating the incidents involving Reuters journalists and that it takes time to get all the facts.
Glocer likes to chide arch competitor Bloomberg for not sending its reporters to cover the Iraq war. During the war, some Bloomberg stories were datelined Baghdad, even though they were written by writers in newsrooms in other cities. A Bloomberg spokeswoman said the company's longtime policy allowed datelines to list cities where the news originated, even if it had no reporters situated there. She said the policy was changed during the war and notes that Bloomberg did have a reporter and photographer in Iraq to cover the oil industry. Reuters, which had about 150 personnel in and around Iraq during the war, retains about 30 there now. "It's not a pleasant assignment. But we have got to be there," says Geert Linnebank, Reuters' editor-in-chief. Some Reuters traditions have not changed.
By Stanley Reed in London, with Tom Lowry in New York